A qualified signal person is one of the most important members of a crane operator’s team. With their precise communication skills and arsenal of efficient hand and voice signals, these dedicated professionals ensure the safety of not only the crane operator, but everyone else on the job site too. To fully understand the importance of their on-site involvement, take a look at some of the key details and tasks that every qualified signal person is responsible for.
Qualified Signal Person Responsibilities
Anyone who takes on the role of a qualified signal person should be aware of certain responsibilities that go along with the job. The simplest explanation of a qualified signal person’s duties would be that they are the eyes and ears of a crane operator. A qualified signal person is needed not just during standard crane work, but anytime a crane operator does not have a clear range of vision or may feel that their lift area is compromised. Just to be on the safe side, crane operators often go above and beyond by requesting a qualified signal person for situations that might not even seem threatening.
OSHA’s Requirements for a Qualified Signal Person
OSHA maintains a certain set of requirements to ensure the safety of everyone on a job site. Each requirement is the result of years of experience, case study research, and evaluations of professionals in the field. For regular work with cranes, it is crucial that all qualified signal persons familiarize themselves with the details of OSHA’s requirements and be aware of all signals that they may encounter in their field. They should also take time to learn other signals not commonly associated with crane work. More than that, qualified signal persons should show an ability to comprehend and understand what each one means.
Under OSHA regulations, there should also be an understanding of what goes into the entire crane operation process. That means having knowledge of what each crane can and cannot do. While some might just learn of a crane’s load-bearing limitations, a qualified signal person should extend their knowledge base to include all aspects of crane operation from load heights to range of motion.
OSHA also conducts regular training and checks to verify qualifications. During that time, it looks at a qualified signal person’s ability through testing methods. These selected methods could extend to written, oral, or a combination of both based on various considerations. Officials with OSHA also have the right to change any testing method if the situation warrants it.
The Key Hand and Voice Signals of a Qualified Signal Person
There are a set of basic hand signals that every qualified signal person should have memorized for their job. The most common signal faced on the job is the stop motion (one arm extended out horizontally and swung back and forth to the side with palm facing down), which can be accompanied by the emergency stop signal (same form as the stop motion but with both arms).
When it comes to the movement of the crane itself, additional steps are necessary. Standard hand signals that dictate crane movement include:
- Raise signal – To raise the boom, an arm is extended out to the side with a thumb pointing up.
- Lower signal – The thumb of the extended arm points down to signal that the boom needs lowering.
- Hoist signal – The upward-pointing index finger of a single, raised arm draws small circles to hoist.
- Swing signal – A horizontally extended arm and index finger point in the direction the boom is meant to swing.
All of these signals are seen in a standard day of crane operation. From there, the signals become more complicated. The elements most difficult to distinguish of these hand signals often come from commands like “Dog Everything” or telescoping movements.
- Dog Everything signal – The signal person holds their hands together (as if in prayer) close to the body at the waist.
- Extend/Retract Telescoping Boom signal – Once again, hands are held close to the waist, but the placement of the thumbs becomes crucial for successful crane movement. Thumbs pointing in signal retraction where thumbs pointing out signal extension.
Additional Signaling Safety Tips
The position of a qualified signal person may seem like a solitary job, but it relies on an entire team to maintain safety. Before going to work, any crane team should have a dedicated plan. Every detail should be understood and memorized by each team member.
Once on the site, the entire area should be checked on a daily basis for any obstructions that could block hand signals from being seen. If something seems problematic, all work should stop until the issue can be corrected.
Every member of the team should also undergo regular training. Any courses taken should be approved by OSHA and feature current regulations from the agency. It is also important to look for instructors with the training and approval to teach such courses.
If someone feels unsafe during a crane operation, they should always report the issue to their team as well as any supervisors. The details should be noted and addressed immediately. If the signal person feels that corrective action has not been taken, then they can report the complaint to OSHA officials.